Manitoba Hydro is rejecting allegations by the provincial NDP it is contemplating changes to electricity rates that could lead to sky-high bills — similar to those suffered by Texans during the state's recent cold snap.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew warned Tuesday a bill before the Manitoba legislature and elements of Hydro's yet-to-be-released 20-year strategic plan could spell bad news for the province's consumers.
"We cannot let what happened in Texas happen here in Manitoba with our electricity bills," Kinew told a news conference at the legislature.
The NDP released a portion of an internal Hydro power point presentation, which it claimed highlights the possible end of the Crown utility's flat-rate structure for electrical prices.
Kinew said the document appears to open the door to "surge pricing," which would see electrical rates get more expensive as usage rises.
The party also noted the proposed Public Utilities Ratepayer Protection and Regulatory Reform Act (Bill 35) would remove — at least temporarily — the Public Utilities Board's ability to set electricity rates. Bill 35 would see that responsibility rest with the provincial cabinet until April 2024, after which the PUB would approve rates at five-year intervals.
Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton said the NDP is "completely misrepresenting" Hydro's long-term planning documents.
"This is another ridiculous fabrication by the NDP, and demonstrates why Manitobans don’t trust them when it comes to Manitoba Hydro," he said in a statement.
"They are making an absurd comparison between Manitoba’s power grid and Texas’(s) — grids which are generated differently, priced differently, and built for different climates."
Hydro spokesman Bruce Owen said the portion of the planning document cited by the NDP refers to how the Crown corporation could potentially manage consumer-owned power generation capacity — for instance, rooftop solar panels — in the future.
"This would allow us to more effectively manage the grid of the future and possibly defer the need for new (power) generation options, for example, by encouraging customers to send more energy to our grid when we need it," he said in an email. "This will help keep rates low for our customers."
Hydro said, unlike Texas, Manitoba belongs to a power grid involving 15 U.S. states that allows it to import power as well as export it, when needed.
As well, in order to be able to charge higher rates for electricity at high-use times of the day, Hydro says it would have to install new "smart meters" in every home and business in the province.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.